Thousands of Rwandans work in the construction industry, cumulatively making billions of francs that go a long way in improving their livelihoods and those of their families.
But this positive contribution of the sector to the well-being of the economy is marred by poor working conditions.
While officials are quick to make reference to the labour law and its provisions for safe working conditions, the reality on the ground is different.
Our investigations reveal a sector fraught with exploitative conditions, headlined by low wages, long hours and unsafe conditions.
While the employer has the right to determine the remuneration of their employees, a pay gap which is not based on skills and experience is questionable.
More importantly, there is an urgent need to address how employers deal with occupational hazards.
The law on organisation of social security defines work injury as “any accident, whatever the cause may be, that befalls a worker while on duty.”
Also considered are accidents that befall an employee during a journey that has been financed by the employer.
The law defines an occupational disease as a “disease that results from work or befalls someone in the course of work, or working conditions or directly connected with hazards that are peculiar to this work.”
Legal provisions relating to work injury also apply to occupational diseases. Rwanda Social Security Board should provide occupational hazard insurance for employees working for all companies registered in Rwanda.
Of the eight per cent of an employee’s salary that is contributed towards the pension and occupational schemes, two per cent goes to occupational hazard insurance.
In case of work-related injuries or death in the line of work, employees or their beneficiaries are compensated through the insurance. The benefits of occupational health insurance include free medical care, daily sickness allowances, incapacity social security benefits, incapacity lump sum benefits and survivors’ benefits.
Therefore, it is important that the respective government agencies be more vigilant and proactive in protecting ordinary Rwandans from exploitation.
One way towards this is to pay attention to prevention, which includes every measure aimed at preventing undesirable events that might limit or destroy the physical or mental soundness and well-being of the individual.
It is a matter not just of ethical but also economic concern since successful prevention is beneficial to other social security schemes such as pension systems and general healthcare.
It is also beneficial for workers, enterprises and the society as a whole.
All Rwandans have a right to not only decent employment but also should be treated with dignity and fair compensation at their workplace.